Parents, teachers demonstrate outside Cherokee County School District board meeting

Parents and teachers in Cherokee County are demanding school leaders put safety first. With classes set to start in less than three weeks, some community members want the Cherokee County School District to move to only virtual learning this fall.

On Thursday afternoon, demonstrators gathered outside the district build to protest. They believe the administrators need to hold off on resuming school on August 3 as COVID-19 cases continue to increase.

'There's a lot of fear going around in our community," Tiffany Robbins, the President of the Cherokee Education Association, explained.

Right now, the group of protesters believes school leaders are not listening to their concerns.

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"I'm out here because teachers don't have the voice they needed to have," Parent Christy Worsham explained. "They don't feel like the CCSD is listening to them and they don't feel safe going back to school."

CCSD is offering the option of virtual or in-person learning for students.

"What I've really heard from the parents is they're being faced with two really bad choices. They're not familiar with the online virtual that's being offered. They're also not comfortable sending their children back into the classroom where they could be at risk," Robbins explained.

The district has safety measures in place for in-person learning like altering lunch schedules and installing plexiglass barriers.

The fall reopening was not on Thursday's agenda but Superintendent Brian Hightower did address community concerns.

"We've done a lot of analyzing this week. I will tell you, the enhancements that we've done since last Thursday night. We did update and enhance our reopening of school plan," he told the board.

On Thursday, school districts in Fulton, Cobb and Douglas Counties announced plans for remote learning only starting next month. Their decision comes amid a steady increase in coronavirus cases and frustration from community members.

"I was actually kind of disappointed in Cherokee County. We were really, I felt, were leaders in the spring," one protester said.

Fulton County's Superintendent Mike Looney said complete virtual learning is the right thing to do.

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With nearby school districts shifting to virtual learning, demonstrators said they are hopeful Cherokee will follow their lead.

However, Superintendent Hightower said most people still support the district's plan.

"Folks, probably, nine out of 10 today were very happy that we were maintaining a choice program," Dr. Hightower explained.

The superintendent said roughly 15 percent of kids are signed up for virtual learning. For parents interested in that option, the district said they must sign up by 5 p.m. Friday.

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